Organizing cards, seeking out your favorite players to get autographs, scouring your local card store for the latest score – these are all routine activities of the average card collector. However, for Paul Jones, these hobby duties are a little harder to perform. But through adversity, these activities have become a godsend for Paul and the Jones family.
“Paul has been collecting baseball cards for about the last 10 years, and I can honestly say baseball card collecting has made a big impact in this family’s life,” said his father, Bill Jones. “So you can imagine, as parents, it was hard for us to find a tool that would help our son in his education and social life.”
The 21-year-old Las Vegas native was born with a genetic defect that impairs his ability to take in information.
For the first two years of his life, Jones was unable to hear normal sounds and talk. Fearing the cause was a chemical defect, he was sent to Boston to be enrolled in a Harvard University study.
Jones was missing a nose bridge that his parents didn’t think could be corrected, but as soon as doctors took out his tonsils, he could talk.
However, it was discovered that Jones was missing Gene 16, and it has caused him to lead a dependent life.
According to a report by the Las Vegas Review Journal, just getting dressed is challenging for Jones. If he puts on a shirt inside out, it would stay that way unless he was told to correct it.
Despite Jones’ handicap, he has accumulated quite the card collection and executes a cataloging system that would turn the heads of any dealer or collector.
There are more than 425,000 cards in Jones’ collection, all alphabetized and entered into a database program on his computer.
“Everything belonging to the collection is so well ordered,” said his mom. “It takes a lot on Paul’s part to go in and organize it everyday, a huge task.”
According to Jones, he utilizes this organization so he can quickly find a card of a certain player to get his autograph when he comes to Las Vegas.
Jones has more than 18,000 autographs.
“Every autograph that he has, he actually met the person,” his father said. “We don’t order through the mail or buy. He wants to meet them.”
According to his dad, that is how Paul’s desire for collecting started.
“It all happened about 10 years ago, on a Sunday afternoon,” said his father. “I wanted to get out of the house, and I had heard that there was a baseball team located in Las Vegas and thought it would be nice to do something different.
“Now at the time, Paul did not do very well with crowds of people, even though he was 10 years old. He just didn’t like having a lot of people around him.
“Well, it all happened at the end of the game. Some players came out of the dugout and were signing baseball cards. Kids were running down the rail in hopes of getting their cards signed by players. Paul asked if I would get him some cards, too. So I ran up to the store and got my son a team set of cards. As we watched Paul stand by the rail holding out his cards, hoping to get one or two autographs, not saying a word, he was just standing and waiting. Because at that time, Paul didn’t talk much. He could go days without talking. You could say that Paul was in his own little world.
“It was the team manager, Tim Flannery, who came over to Paul and started talking to him. Paul didn’t say much. A few ‘yeses’ and a ‘thank-you.’ Then he ran back to us to show off his newly-signed cards. As we were getting ready to leave, Tim yelled up to tell Paul that he will see him next time, while waving good bye.”
Paul was hooked from that point on.
He has met thousands of players and even got a chance to meet Mickey Mantle.
“Mantle was sitting at a hotel bar drinking, and he was nice enough to sign some autographs for me,” said Jones. “And he hit on my mom and said, ‘Hey baby, why don’t you come back to my hotel room.’ ”
Jones’ ultimate goal is to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the world’s largest card collection. In fact, in July, Jones was named the Citizen of the Month of the City of Las Vegas. During that presentation, Mayor Oscar Goodman promised Jones that he would call Guinness and try to get him in the book.
Whether Jones gets in or not, he said he will probably keep collecting until he dies. And he stresses some important words of advice.
“Do what you love to do,” he said. “Just believe in yourself.”